This post is inspired by Alexey Guzey’s post. Last updated in Nov., 2020. You should not follow my recommendations if the page is outdated by two years or so.
1. Physical World Things
I love the trackpad on MacBooks. Apple has done such a great job with the trackpad, but it is not as useful when you use it with an external monitor.
Update: I’d love to upgrade to the XM4’s, but I don’t have any spare cash to burn.
I spent most of my teenage savings on these and I don’t regret at all. I’m a very no-nonsense person. In fact, many people on campus will accuse me of being ignorant about events going on around me. While there is some truth to it, I cannot appreciate the value of a good pair of headphones enough. I have the Sony WH-1000XM3’s. I call these headphones ‘Sheldon’. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit weird but I love naming things.
These pair of headphones are the best investment I’ve made so far. The noise-cancelling on these is great. It drowns out most noise around you completely, and is the best thing to help you study in a noisy cafe or the library. I use the Sony WF-1000XM3’s more often though, just because they are portable. I call these ‘Golu’.
Things I love about the XM3’s apart from active noise-cancellation:
- Swipe for skipping/rewind.
- Wireless: reduces the friction to listen to books or documentaries.
- Double tap for play/pause. The WF-1000XM3’s accept single tap play/pause. But this can be changed in the app, so it’s okay.
- Tap, swipe etc. works even when you’ve mildly wet hands.
- Long battery life. I can get about two days’ worth of listening time on a single full charge.
Considering the fact that I listen to music, audiobooks, watch videos, lectures, movies, web series, basically almost everything on these headphones, they’re totaally worth it. I don’t plan to ditch them anytime soon. I listen to books and music for several hours a day. This has increased even more now that we’re stuck at home and spend most of our time in front of the screen. So, they are like my lifeline.
The only issue with these Sony headphones is that they kind of screwed up the multi-device support. The companion app feels outdated by 2020 phone app standards. It’s not bad per se, but nothing like the synergy between the Airpods, Apple Software and other Apple devices.
I have the trusty MacBook Air 2017. Thanks to a scholarship I received from GOI, this did not cut too much into my savings. The Macbook Air 2019 makes it look outdated, but trust me it is still a great value for money.
My dream laptop (should be portable) should have these features:
- 4K 15” screen
- 32 gb of RAM
- 1TB+ SSD storage
- 8 core processor AMD/Intel/Apple’s is fine
- Water resistant keypad, lap-top thingy because I drop quite many things while working
Based on all of these if I can afford, I would probably go with the maxed-out version of MacBook Pro 16” (2019), with an NVIDIA GPU (3080?).
I have a Samsung 27” Curved Monitor, that I connect to my MacBook in clam-shell mode. The extra screen real-estate is great for coding, and lectures. I can code on one window, and see the renders without switching windows. I can also watch lectures, and type along or just note on my iPad.
If I had unlimited budget, I’ll probably upgrade to a 4K screen with 16:9 aspect ratio. 27” is fine, honestly. A better resolution, and 120 Hz refresh rate would be sweet.
I use OnePlus 7. It’s outdated, and I guess OnePlus don’t make/sell them anymore. But, it’s a great phone. I mean my definition of a great phone is that it should be able to run apps without lag, and open apps fast. I don’t take may photos, so camera is not a priority. But, a good camera system would be a nice addition.
I use Android over iOS just because I cannot afford an iPhone. The lower priced iPhones are a value for money. I’ll make the switch to iOS once Apple releases reasonably priced phones in India.
My recommendation right now would probably be the iPhone 11, but it’s too pricey in India. I’ve also heard great things about the OnePlus 8 series.
I read (almost) everything on my Kindle. It is the best thing ever. Read “You should get a Kindle”.
2. Computer Software
Here are some of my most used apps/tools on macOS (Catalina, if you’re curious). Apple’s software support is awesome. I love macOS. I tried Windows and Ubuntu as well.
- Password manager. Bitwarden is my password manager of choice. I use the free version, but that has most of the things you’ll need. For a few dollars a month, you can get more fancy features but the free version works for me.
- Grammarly. Thanks to IIT Kanpur, I use Grammarly Premium to spell-check almost everything that I write. I wonder how much extra would it cost me once I graduate. I’ll probably get the premium version myself, it’s that awesome.
- Google Chrome with DuckDuckGo as my default search engine for web browsing. I love Safari’s UI but the page loads weirdly on Safari. I don’t know if my laptop has started showing its age or it’s just the browser. Safari also does not support Facebook Video calls, not like I use them but whatever.
- Todoist is my to-do list app of choice, It syncs events seamlessly between my phone and my laptop.
- I also use Notion for note-taking on the mac. I usually don’t use it for writing posts/articles but it is great for journaling and capturing webpages and blog posts to reaad later.
- I use VS Code for editing this website and most of my projects. I’ve recently started using Anaconda Navigator (specifically, Spyder) for Python projects. It saves me a few commands, and a few keystrokes.
- iTerm 2.0 is my terminal of choice. I don’t use all the features it has but it’s much better and prettier than the Terminal that ships with macOS.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader DC for reading PDFs. I found it much better suited to my use than the default Preview app. If I had unlimited budget, I’d love to try out Expert PDF. That thing costs $79, gosh!
- I use the free tier of both Dropbox + Google Drive. The combined power serves me well. Less frequently used files/notes etc. live on OneDrive.
3. Phone Apps
Why Android and not iOS?
Like I said before, it is because I cannot afford an iPhone. That’s it! Period.
- Spotify for (almost) everything – music (check this out), and podcasts (less often). I love Taylor Swift, Unconditionally (ironic, Katy Perry has a song with this title).
- Audible for audiobooks. I mostly listen to fiction here. I prefer reading books to listening though. But, listening to crime/fantasy novels helps me picture the scenes more clearly in my head. I play out the scenes and dialogues at times.
- I use Headspace for meditation and workout lessons. I use this when I feel extremely low or motivated. The free tier is sufficient for most people, although the premium version has much more stuff.
- I read books on my Kindle, and use the mobile Kindle app to email myself the book highlights. Read “You should get a Kindle”, and “FAQs”.
I also use most standard young people apps like WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter etc. but I thought it won’t be as useful to list them here.
4. The iPad situation
Update: I’ll recommend the iPad Air 2020 model, if you’re looking to buy a new iPad/tablet in general. You won’t need the Pro models unless you are a creator or have extra cash to burn. Don’t buy the entry-level iPad, because it’s a bit outdated and not a good value for money. If you’re just looking for something to consume media (Netflix, YouTube etc.) you can get the iPad Mini.
I also use the iPad Air 3rd Gen with the Apple Pencil, mainly for taking class notes. I plan on putting them up somewhere on this site. Email me if you need something. I’ll send you (for free) if I happen to have the notes.
This has been life changing in so many ways. Now I don’t lose my notes and it’s easy to find my notes. I use an app called Notability for taking notes, and it syncs perfectly with my Dropbox (for free!) I’ve heard good things about Goodnotes 5, too. See which one suits your needs. I found that Notability does everything that I need.
I hope to take tons of notes in the future, since I don’t plan on leaving academia anytime soon.
Other than notes, I use it mainly for watching movies in the cafe or read on the Kindle app if I forget my Kindle (the device). I also have this “Starry Night” thingy cover, that I bought cheaply off Amazon on the iPad.
Send me an email at
firstname.lastname@example.org you have something to say or want course notes. I’ll have to warn you though: I won’t be able to send the notes which I don’t have! If you don’t hear back from me about the notes, it’s probably because I don’t have them.